Wolves @ Portland. 9 PM CST. CH. 29 (830-AM). Kaboom.
Coming off a 116-94 beating in LaLa on Thursday night, the Wolves close out their West Coast tour tonight at the Rose Garden as guests of the Portland Trailblazers and VULCAN INC. [Has there ever been a more evil-sounding company backing a pro sports franchise? Seriously, just hearing VULCAN(!) gives me shivers, especially when I then think about Paul Allen terminating GMs like they’re Al Qaeda’s #3. VULCAN!]
The Blazers haven’t been winning. Since beating the Wolves on February 4th, they went on a seven game losing streak before getting a win last Sunday against Boston. In all, they’ve lost eight of their last nine. But like the Lakers, the Blazers are fighting for a playoff slot in the West. Another thing they share in common with the Laker is that they ALWAYS beat the Wolves – Portland has won 20 of the last 22 contests versus the Wolves. So despite the dry spell, the Blazers should be ready to go tonight.
The Wolves? Maybe, maybe not.Ricky Rubio is looking like his old self again. But now, he doesn’t have anyone to pass to. That has been hurting us for a while.
It doesn’t get easier tonight. Pek and AK are both listed as doubtful. Perhaps more than ever this season – which is saying a lot – the Wolves just don’t have the guys right now.
I shudder to think what Wolf Hunter LaMarcus Aldridge will do to Derrick Williams & co. Bringing in Stiemsma for length and shot blocking is an option, sort of, but you lose as much offensively as you gain on D doing that.
Chris Johnson? Guess again. Since Adelman returned, CJ can’t sniff the lineup. No amount of #freechrisjohnson Twitter hashtags can seem to change Rick’s mind on this one.
But I’m not sure they should. Johnson’s a likable player, but his (literal) weaknesses on D have been exposed in the limited minutes he’s played since joining the team back in January, and I suspect his struggles to get solid position under the boards are also a big reason Adelman doesn’t feel comfortable giving him extended minutes.
Things to watch for:
- Dame Lillard: Look out for Lillard especially. He’s such a dynamic, quick young point. Solid build, nice shot, and a good head on his shoulders. Lillard’s a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year already – and that’s nothing to sneeze at, given that bloggers were ready to preemptively hand over the trophy to Ant Davis before he even played his first NBA game. It turns out that Lillard looks like this generation’s Chauncey Billups, not only in terms of his physical stature and game and mannerisms, but also his leadership and cool under pressure.
- LaMarcus Aldridge: A certified Wolf Hunter, LMA may rain down an ungodly f*cking firestorm tonight on the Wolves’ beleaguered front line. He had 25 and 13 in Portland’s win on February 4th, and is averaging a cool 20 & 9 on the season.
- Wes Matthews? Unforch, yes. He’s another licensed Wolf Hunter. It stings each time Matthews lights us up – which seems like every time – because Wes is one of the least cool players in the League. (He’s in a heat with Kevin Martin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Devin Harris for that award, according to our unofficial Twitter polling.)
- Alexey Shved: Can we please get ‘Lexey going again? The team really need some productivity off the bench, aside from Good/Bad J.J., and Alexey hasn’t been providing that for a long while. After reading Bill Bayno’s story of putting up NUMB#RS while hungover, I’m desperate enough to try sneaking a bottle of Stoli into Alexey’s gym bag if that’s what it takes to bring Punch-Drunk Wolves’ favorite Russian out of his funk.
Enjoy the tilt. Responsibly.